If you have suffered an injury in a hit-and-run car accident, you probably have quite a few questions. What happens after a hit-and-run accident? Can you sue for a hit-and-run accident? If the accident was somebody else’s fault, you probably have a personal injury claim. The problem you might face is finding or identifying the defendant.
What Is a Hit-and-Run Accident?
What is considered a hit-and-run accident? The definition of a hit-and-run accident includes any case where the driver collides with any object of value (a car, a person, etc.) and then intentionally leaves the scene of the accident without providing their identity or insurance information.
The accident might be something as minor as scratching the paint of a car in a parking lot, or as serious as killing someone in an accident. Indiana car accident hit-and-run laws forbid any driver involved in an accident, even the victim of someone else’s reckless driving, from leaving the scene of the accident before exchanging contact and insurance details.
Hit-and-run is a crime as well as a civil offense, except under rare circumstances. You are likely to need an experienced car accident lawyer to help you press a civil claim for damages.
Why Do Drivers Leave the Scene?
Every hit-and-run accident case is different. There are many reasons why a driver might flee the scene of an accident:
- They panic and act impulsively (especially inexperienced drivers).
- They wish to avoid a personal injury lawsuit.
- They were driving while intoxicated.
- They were driving without auto insurance.
- They were driving without a valid driver's license.
- They were driving a stolen vehicle.
- They have an outstanding arrest warrant against them (unrelated to the hit-and-run accident).
- The driver is in the country illegally and fears deportation if the police arrive and identify them.
- The accident was a crime for which the police might arrest them.
- They didn’t realize they caused an accident (hitting a pedestrian without realizing it, for example).
Drivers leave the scene of an accident for many more reasons. Normally, the reason involves some fear of economic or criminal hit-and-run car accident consequences.
What To Do After a Hit-and-Run Auto Accident
The actions you take after a hit-and-run accident are important for both medical and legal reasons. From a legal perspective, they can exert a strong influence on whether you can receive any compensation at all, and if so, how much you will receive. You need to know what to do after a hit-and-run car accident, where to report hit-and-run accidents, and how to prove a hit-and-run accident, among other important matters.
Hit-and-Run Accident Reports
Properly reporting a hit-and-run car accident is critical to your claim. Take the following actions:
- Photograph the car if you get the chance.
- Do not leave at the scene of the accident. If you try to chase down the other driver, you will break the law yourself.
- Call an ambulance if you or anyone else suffered an injury.
- Call the police to have them come to the scene of the accident.
- Exchange contact details with any witnesses.
- Cooperate with the police when they fill out an accident report.
- Get a copy of the accident report as soon as you can. Your lawyer and perhaps your insurance company will want to see it.
Most importantly, contact a skilled personal injury lawyer.
Gather Details About the Car and Driver
Some of the most important information you need to gather includes:
- The driver’s state (according to their license plate).
- The license plate number, even the first few digits.
- The make, model, color, and year of the vehicle.
- A description of the driver includes age, gender, facial hair, and any other distinguishing features.
- Decals, bumper stickers, etc. on the vehicle.
- Several passengers were in the at-fault driver’s vehicle.
If you don’t know the answers, don’t guess. Wrong information will only impede an investigation.
Seek Medical Attention
Seek medical attention as soon as you can, even if you do not believe you were injured. Some injuries, such as whiplash, sprains, muscle strains, or traumatic brain injury, do not always manifest symptoms at first. Make sure to tell your doctor about any symptoms you suffer. The insurance company will use any delay against you by, for example, claiming that your symptoms were caused by something that happened to you after the accident.
Look for People or Security Cameras
You need to look for witnesses who can help you find the driver.
- Knock on nearby doors. People living near the scene of the accident, or people who work in nearby businesses, etc. may have seen something.
- There may be security cameras in the vicinity (a parking lot, for example). You will need to move quickly on this because some CCTV operators erase their footage every 24 hours.
Ask witnesses to write down whatever they saw, and sign it.
Gather Evidence At the Scene of the Accident
Take photos of your injuries, the damage to your vehicle, and the scene of the accident. Don’t forget important clues such as skid marks. The police and the insurance companies will both be interested in this evidence, but make sure to keep a copy of everything to show to your lawyer. This kind of evidence can not only help identify the driver, but it can also help you prove the number of your damages.
Compensation from Your Insurance Company
Who pays in a hit-and-run accident if the driver is never found? Read your insurance policies carefully to find out, and have your lawyer look them over. You can be sure that your insurance company will seize upon any loophole in your policy to avoid paying. If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, you have to “do your homework”, be persistent, and consult with your lawyer.
Your policy might require you to promptly notify them of your accident, even if they are not liable for it. This obligation will arise from a “Notification and Cooperation” clause in your policy. Your lawyer can help you identify this clause.
Types of Hit-and-Run Insurance Coverage
Does insurance cover hit-and-run accidents? Some types do and some types don’t. What insurance covers hit-and-run accidents? Read on for a brief explanation of some of the most common forms of insurance.
Collision insurance covers damage to your car, regardless of whose fault the accident was. You will almost certainly have to pay a deductible, however.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Indiana does not offer PIP insurance, it is an “at-fault” auto insurance state, not a “no-fault” auto insurance state. PIP insurance is available in no-fault auto insurance states, and is optional in certain other states, not including Indiana.
Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UIBI)
UIBI insurance covers your injuries if the other driver lacks sufficient insurance. Check your policy to find out whether it covers hit-and-run accidents.
Uninsured Motorist (UM)
UM covers you if the other driver does not carry any auto liability insurance or if you cannot locate the driver. Indiana law requires auto insurance companies to offer hit-and-run car accident insurance.
Compensation Through the Justice System
One way to obtain compensation for a hit-and-run accident is to settle with or sue an insurance company that is liable for your damages. There is no such thing as a meaningful average settlement for a hit-and-run car accident because the number of damages differs so widely. If no insurance company is liable, you might need to resort to the below-described methods.
Victim Compensation Funds
Requiring Compensation as Condition of Probation
If you can find the hit-and-run driver, and if Indiana convicts them, the judge might make compensation (restitution) to the victim (you) a condition of the at-fault driver’s probation. If they fail to pay, Indiana can incarcerate them. This option is only available, however, when the at-fault driver has the financial resources to pay at least a significant proportion of your claim.
Compensation for a hit-and-run accident depends, at least in part, on the quality of the hit-and-run accident lawyer you choose to represent you. Before you file a hit-and-run accident claim, make sure that the law firm you select is experienced in hit-and-run cases.
At Stracci Law Group, our attorneys have won compensation for a multitude of hit-and-run accident victims. Remember – you pay us nothing unless we win your claim.
We offer the following advantages:
- A strong trial record makes opposing parties reluctant to issue a settlement offer rejection that could land them in court.
- Over 80 years of combined experience in personal injury law.
- Many victories in personal injury cases.
- Rich experience in the Northwest Indiana legal system, with all of its nuances and quirks.
Call Stracci Law Group at (219) 525-1000 or contact us online. We serve clients in Gary, Crown Point, Hammond, Merrillville, Valparaiso, and elsewhere in Northwest Indiana.